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Kiki's Delivery Service [Majo no takkyubin] (1989)


This almost indescribably strange animated film is nonetheless certain to appeal to parents and children alike and offers an especially strong role model for young girls to relate to.  Hayao Miyazaki is one of the most revered producers of Japanese anime.  This revised version of Kiki represented Disney's big-budget attempt to introduce his work to American audiences and it benefits from a pristine print (unlike many Asian films that find their way to our shores), a hilarious performance by Phil Hartman (which apparently strays fairly far afield from the original script), as a wise-cracking cat, and a couple of lovely songs.

Kiki is a young witch in training.  She's just turned thirteen, the age at which she's expected to leave home and set up shop in another town.  She departs on her broom, along with her familiar, Jiji (Hartman) and ends up settling in a beautiful seaside city.  A series of coincidences sees her meet a boy, Tombo, who's a flying enthusiast, start a business delivering packages for the locals, and get a room with a family of bakers.  As she deals with separation from her family, the demands of a business, the attentions of boy, and learning to control her magic powers, Kiki easily wins the hearts of those around her and ends up becoming a hero when she saves Tombo during a dirigible accident (yes a dirigible).

Mr. Miyazaki makes no attempt to explain the easy acceptance of witches by the rest of the population, presenting them as a given.  The setting of the story is a bizarre combination of 19th Century and 1930s Europe.  Characters are alternately Japanese or Western with no apparent rhyme or reason.  Perhaps the intent is to make the story appear to occur in an entirely unique world, but there's so much that's familiar, that it is disconcerting the first time you watch it.  But rest assured, if you have kids you'll be watching it more than once, and you'll get used to its oddity.

(Reviewed:22-Apr-02)

Grade: (A-)

Websites:

See also:

    -FILMOGRAPHY : Hayao Miyazaki (Imdb.com)
    -The Hayao Miyazaki Web // Nausicaa.net
    -Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki, and Isao Takahata Worldwide
    -Tribute to Miyazaki's Mononoke Hime
    -Hayao Miyazaki (David Chute)
    -INTERVIEW : Midnight Eye interview: Hayao Miyazaki
    -PROFILE : The Magic of Make Believe : Japan's greatest animator is as eccentric and complex as his best-selling films  (LISA TAKEUCHI CULLEN, OCTOBER 22, 2001, TIME Asia)
    -PROFILE : Spirit Master : Riding a nostalgia wave in Japan, animator Hayao Miyazaki's new film is likely to make box-office history as the country's highest grossing movie ever (SUVENDRINI KAKUCHI, OCTOBER 19, 2001, asiaWeek)
    -ESSAY : The Ever-Expanding, Profit-Maximizing, Cultural-Imperialist, Wonderful World of Disney : The serious business of selling all-American fun. (Jonathan Weber, February 2002, Wired)
    -ARCHIVES : Hayao Miyazaki (Find Articles)
    -ARCHIVES : "Hayao Miyazaki" (Mag Portal)
    -INFO : Kiki's Delivery Service (Imdb.com)
    -ESSAY: Why Asian Ghost Stories Are the Best (TERRENCE RAFFERTY, 6/08/03, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of Kiki's Delivery Service (Isaac J. Sher, EX : Anime)
    -REVIEW : of Kiki's Delivery Service (Stomp Tokyo)
    -REVIEW : of Kiki's Delivery Service (Team Ghiblink: 'Kiki's Delivery Service' page )
    -REVIEW : of Kiki's Delivery Service (T.H.E.M. Anime Reviews)
    -REVIEW : of Kiki's Delivery Service (Nausicaa.net)
    -REVIEW : of Kiki's Delivery Service (Sean Axmaker, Film.com)
    -REVIEW : of Kiki's Delivery Service (Hitoshi Doi, Anime Web Guide)
    -REVIEW : of Kiki's Delivery Service (The Bus's Kiki's Delivery Service Stop)
    -REVIEW : of Princess Mononoke (David Edelstein, Slate)
    -REVIEW : of Princess Mononoke (Andrew O'Hehir, Salon)
    -REVIEW : of Princess Mononoke (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)
    -REVIEW : of Princess Mononoke (James Berardinelli's ReelViews)
    -REVIEW : of Princess Mononoke (Janet Maslin, NY Times)
    -BOOK REVIEW : of Princess Mononoke: The Art and Making of Japan's Most Popular Film of All Time (Emru Townsend, January Magazine)

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